Underground Coal Gasification was apparently first suggested by two German engineers, brothers Werner and Wilhelm Siemens, as early as in 1868. Independently of that, the Russian scientist Dmitry I. Mendeleev had been developing a detailed design for, and operational concepts of, UCG in his large body of work that was published throughout the 1880s and '90s. An early UCG patent was granted in 1909 to the American inventor A.G. Betts.
A plan for the first actual UCG experiment was announced by the English chemist Sir William Ramsey in 1912. He was able to obtain funding for the trial, but died before commencing the experiment. Because of Ramsey's unfortunate death and the onset of World War I, all UCG experiments in England were put off, and were not resumed until after the end of World War II, thirty years later.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Lenin, a Russian revolutionary in exile in Zurich, misread newspaper reports on Ramsey's UCG plans, and mistakenly concluded that a successful UCG trial had already been completed. In May 1913, he published an article in Pravda calling UCG "one of the great triumphs of technology," and praising its social significance because of the elimination of hard mining labor. His mistake laid the foundation for more than 70 years of UCG development in the USSR. The Soviet UCG program was championed and personally supervised by Joseph Stalin. Launched in 1928, the Soviet development created a UCG method capable of extracting commercial quantities of coal. The first commercial-scale UCG plant began operation in 1937. By 1996, when the last Russian UCG plant was shut down, the UCG plants in the Soviet Union had extracted over 17 million metric tonnes of coal.
The Soviet UCG program was significantly downsized and lost its momentum in the 1960s, when large reserves of natural gas and oil were discovered in Russia.
Intermittent and disparate UCG activities in Western Europe (France, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and others) have not thus far resulted in development of a UCG technology capable of supporting coal recovery on a commercial scale.
In the USA, following early UCG trials after World War II, a modern and well-funded UCG development program took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Over 30 UCG experiments had been conducted in the States at the time, culminating in the Rocky Mountain 1 in 1988. Decreased natural gas and oil prices eliminated the rationale for the government-funded UCG program in the US, and in 1989 the program was abandoned before it had a chance to produce a commercially applicable UCG technology.
In 1993, when UCG had been in neglect and decline everywhere, Ergo Exergy Technologies Inc started our UCG saga in Montréal, Canada. Within six years, at the end of 1999, we had produced our first syngas in the Chinchilla UCG project in Australia. Australian businessman and UCG enthusiast Dr. Len Walker played a decisive role in creating that unique UCG opportunity.
The new UCG history had begun.
Today, Ergo Exergy participates in commercial projects based
on εUCG™ technology, which
are currently at various stages of development in several
regions throughout the world, including South Africa, Australia,
the USA, Pakistan, New Zealand, India and Europe. These projects
target power generation in IGCC and co-firing configurations,
replacement of natural gas as fuel for power plants and production
of synthetic liquid fuels, fertilizers, and synthetic methane.
Please read more about Ergo Exergy's projects in the respective